‘The City’s Lament for a Messenger’ by Asad Alvi


We cry out, in the darkness, for asylum:
no one responds – the wind does not carry his name.
The holy city’s arms are lacerated – she does not open them, welcome us
We are waiting for the messenger. I am tired, wrestling with the wind’s torrents
it does not bring him, only fights, wind-knuckled fights and fatigue
that drowns me in my own sweat. The Merāj was a dream.
We heard it was not the prophet who returned from the skies,
but an imposter. Has the wind swallowed our prophet?
The wind only brought back the dead body of Burāq, chequered, wounded
And on his entrails, the city’s dogs feasted.
His feathers were sold in the market; his blood the najūmīs stole
from the streets – for black magic – But there was no sign of the messenger.
The streets exude the stench of defeat. I smell it.
In the pollen, the marigold, the roses left trampled on pavements.
In the ocean’s loud wailing. And the shutters banging with the howl
of the wind. History’s womb, acidic, burnt from the inside
Carries no more dreams, but fire, tongues of fire, of stone
And they do not stop: our throats rending the wind in a lament.


  1.    Merāj: A journey to the heavens that, according to Islam, Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621 CE.
  2.   Burāq: a steed in Islamic mythology, a creature that transported the prophets from the earth to the heavens
  3.   Najūmīs: a fortune teller; magician

Bio: Asad Alvi is a translator and a poet from Pakistan. His work has appeared in The International Gallerie, Dawn, The Hindu, and Scroll, as well as We Will Be Shelter: An Anthology of Contemporary Feminist Poetry (ed. by Andrea Gibson), and the Columbia University’s Journal of Art & Literature, amidst others.  

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